Lightning Safety


When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

Each year in the United States, more than 400 people are struck by lightning. On average, 73 of those struck are killed yearly. Here in East Tennessee, on average, 2-3 people are killed and half a dozen injured each year due to lightning.

Around 22 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes take place in the United State annually.


What is Lightning? 

According to the NSSL, “lightning is a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds, the air, or the ground. In the early stages of development, air acts as an insulator between the positive and negative charges in the cloud and between the cloud and the ground. When the opposite charges builds up enough, this insulating capacity of the air breaks down and there is a rapid discharge of electricity that we know as lightning. The flash of lightning temporarily equalizes the charged regions in the atmosphere until the opposite charges build up again.”



  • Lightning bolts can range between 100 million and 1 billion volts.

  • Lightning can heat surrounding air up to 50,000 degrees Fagrenheit, over 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun.

  • The energy from one flash of lightning can light a 100-watt light bulb for more than 3 months.

  • Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from a thunderstorms

When a person is struck by lightning, their body is subjected to this massive release of energy. Although only a small percentage of lightning strike victims are killed, many are left with very serious, lifelong disabilities.


Avoid the Lightning Threat

  • Have a Plan…Especially when you will be outdoors for a long period of time, create a lightning safety plan. Know where to seek shelter and how long it takes to get there.

  • Check the Weather…Before going outdoors, check the forecast for thunderstorms. Carry a NOAA Weather Radio with you and seek shelter if a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued.

  • When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors…If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. Upon hearing thunder, seek shelter immediately.

  • Find Adequate Shelter…The best shelter is a sturdy, fully enclosed building with wiring and plumbing. Sheds,picnic shelters, tents, or covered porches do NOT protect¬† you. Avoid using corded phones and stay away from windows, wiring, electrical devices, and plumbing. If you are unable to seek shelter in a building, get into a hard-topped metal vehicle, close all windows, and do not touch anything metal.

  • Wait Before Leaving ShelterWait at least 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder before leaving shelter.


If You Can’t Get to a Safe Place

  • Avoid open areas and stay away from tall objects, including trees, poles,and towers.

  • Stay away from metal structures and objects such as fences, bleachers, and wires.


If You Are About to be Struck

Moments prior to a close or direct lightning strike, a person’s hair may stand on its end or a tingling sensation may be felt. If this occurs:

  • Crouch down on the balls of your feet, put your hands over ears, and bend your head down. Make yourself as small a target as possible and minimize your contact with the ground.

  • Do not lie flat on the ground.


If Someone is Struck by Lightning

Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge, are safe to touch, and need immediate medical attention. Cardiac arrest is the primary cause of death among lightning victims.

  • Call for help. Call 9-1-1 or other emergency services.

  • Give first aid. Check the victim’s pulse and breathing. Begin CPR is necessary. An Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) may be used.

  • If possible, move victim to safety. An active thunderstorm is still dangerous. Lightning can strike the same place twice.


Lightning Myths

  • Lightning never strikes the same place twice. Simply false. Lightning can and may strike the same place twice.

  • The rubber soles of shoes or rubber tires on a car will protect you from lightning. Contrary to this widespread fallacy, rubber soles and tires DO NOT protect you from lightning. The steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal. Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than out in the open.

  • “Heat lightning” occurs after very hot summer days and poses no threat. There is no such thing as “heat lighting”. The term is often used to describe lightning from a distant thunderstorm, too far away to hear the thunder.